The King of Threadneedle Street by Moriah Densley

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He owns three shipping companies, a diamond mine, and his own castle.

He knows Portuguese, Hindi, Mandarin and Morse code.

His assets net thirteen million.

Everyone thinks Andrew Tilmore, Lord Preston, the financial prodigy dubbed “The King of Threadneedle Street,” has it all, but he wants the one prize money can’t buy: his childhood sweetheart.

Alysia Villier can’t say if it’s worse having Andrew’s father in control of her inheritance or Andrew in control of her heart. He’s ruined her for any other man, but she simply can’t give in to him. She knows he’s destined for great things — marrying a courtesan’s daughter would jeopardize everything he stands for.

Keeping Alysia out of trouble and away from eager suitors becomes a cross-continental quest for Andrew, and he won’t be stopped by his old-fashioned family or the disapproval of the ton. After all, he’s a man with the power to play newspapers and investors like pawns, tumble world markets and incite riots… but can he win the biggest gamble of his life?

Publisher and Release Date: esKape Press, December 2013

RHR Classifications:
Time and Setting: Victorian England, France, Austria
Genre: Historical Romance
Heat Level: 1.5
Reviewer Rating: 3.5 stars

Review by Caz

This is book two in Moriah Densley’s Rougemont series, and although it features some of the charactes from book one (Song for Sophia), it’s not necessary to have read it in order to follow the events of this one.

The hero is Andrew Tilmore, Viscount Preston, heir to the Marquess of Courtenay, whom we met briefly in Song for Sophia. Then aged seventeen, Andrew was already a prodigiously gifted financial whizz-kid, whose string-pulling in the financial markets led to the downfall of that book’s villain. Now aged twenty-two, he speaks several languages, owns a castle, counts foreign royalty among his acquaintance and has earned himself the moniker “The King of Threadneedle Street” (for anyone unfamiliar with that location, Threadneedle Street is the home of the Bank of England).

Alysia Villiers is the illegitimate daughter of a now-deceased famous courtesan who was also at one time Courtenay’s mistress. Very unusually, Alysia was more or less brought up in the Tilmore household, and for the past few years has been running the establishment and acting as the marquess’ steward, duties for which she receives no renumeration or acknowledgement. Over the years, she and Andrew formed a close friendship which has developed into something more, and upon his return from university, Andrew makes it clear that he wants to marry her.

Alysia will have none of it. A courtesan’s daughter is not a fitting match for the son and heir of a marquess and even though she is as in love with Andrew as he with her, she turns him down flat.

But she hasn’t counted on Andrew’s persistence or his constancy, and he won’t take “no” for an answer.

The marquess is, needless to say, not at all happy about the direction taken by his son’s affections, and has already conceived of a plan to remove Alysia from his orbit. As soon as she has finished overseeing the arrangements for his daughter’s wedding, Alysia must leave and make her own way in the world, which means taking up her late mother’s profession and finding herself a wealthy protector. Courtenay has already arranged for her to be conveyed to Paris, where Alysia is taken under the wing of the popular hostess, Madame Desmarais. In Paris, Alysia indulges her artistic talents, gaining a reputation as a portraitist, but has no idea that Madame is in reality nothing more than a high-class pimp who is preparing to sell her off to the highest bidder.

When Andrew discovers his father’s plans, he is furious. Having no idea where Alysia has gone, he sets about mounting a search for her and when he finds her, sends her back to England, to Rougemont, the home of the Earl and Countess of Devon (hero and heroine of Song for Sophia).

Andrew’s plan is that they wait until Alysia attains her majority (she is eighteen at the beginning of the book), at which time his father’s legal authority over her will come to an end, and she will be able to do as she wishes. But that is almost three years away, and will prove to be a long and difficult wait which will see Alysia discovering the truth about her parentage and Andrew pursuing her across Europe.

I enjoyed the novel overall, and having a central couple who is already in love is certainly an unusual occurrence in a romance, but there was almost too much going on in terms of the plot to allow for much by way of characterisation or character development. Because we see most of the action from Alysia’s point of view, Andrew feels rather under-developed and doesn’t really rise above the two-dimensional. He might be brilliant when it comes to business matters, but when it comes to personal ones, he’s hopelessly immature, frequently making Alysia uncomfortable by his displays of marked attention. This strikes me as perfectly plausible; twenty-two year old men are perhaps not known for their emotional maturity!

Alysia is a more well-drawn character, and she is refreshingly practical, capable, and unafraid to admit her attraction to Andrew, even though she is determined it will never come to anything. The trouble is that her continual refusal of him for his own good does become a little irritating after a while.

The pacing, too is uneven, which is in part due to the fact that the hero and heroine spend large chunks of the story apart, and partly because there are several places when long flashbacks interrupt the action. It’s true that these shed light on Andrew and Alysia’s past, but they disrupt the overall flow of the story; there was one very near the end of the book which was badly misplaced because it came immediately before the dénouement and delayed the hard-won HEA.

That said, the book does have much to recommend it, not least of which is the way Ms Densley manages to convey the depth of the affection between her two protagonists. The writing flows well for the most part, and the story is an enjoyable one, in spite of the somewhat melodramatic paths onto which it occasionally strays.

If you like a sweeping romance in which the central couple has to overcome seemingly unsurmountable obstacles, then you could do much worse than give The King of Threadneedle Street a try. Ms Densley is a talented author who can craft a deeply-felt romance together with an intriguing story. While I feel that the book could have benefitted from a little more focus, I was nonetheless entertained and am definitely going to be reading more of Ms Densley’s work.

AT TIME OF WRITING, THE KING OF THREADNEEDLE STREET IS AVAILABLE ON KINDLE FOR $1.31.

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